Dutch government to re-open Urgenda climate change case

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The Dutch government has said it wants to re-open the groundbreaking climate change case in which a judge ruled it must cut emissions by at least 25% compared to 1990 levels by 2020. The case was brought by campaign group the Urgenda Foundation and judges ruled in their favour on 24 June 2015, saying the government must do more to protect people from climate change.

The government said it would appeal the ruling, but has today raised the stakes by saying it wants to re-open the case entirely. This would give the government and Urgenda the chance to present new arguments, and could take up to three years to complete. In the meantime, the government is legally obliged to comply with the original ruling (to cut emissions by 25% by 2020).

What was the Urgenda case about?

Urgenda’s goal was for the court to order The Netherlands to cut emissions by up to 40% on 1990 levels by 2020. On 14 April 2015, the district court in The Hague heard the arguments of both sides, and the verdict was released on 24 June 2015.

The court ruled in favour of Urgenda, ordering the Dutch government to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25% compared to 1990 levels by 2020. The government’s previous plan had been to reduce emissions by 17%, a weak commitment compared to the global norm for developed countries of 25 – 40% emissions reduction by 2020. The court agreed with Urgenda that The Netherlands was not doing enough to avert climate change, and was failing in its duty of care to its people.

The case was the first in Europe where citizens held a state responsible for lack of action on climate change.

What is Urgenda’s chance of winning the second time around?

We are not Dutch lawyers, so can’t comment on Urgenda’s prospects of success, but the campaigners are confident of success. The case draws welcome attention to the ways in which climate change impacts upon a range of government responsibilities to citizens, in the Netherlands and elsewhere.


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